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Phoenix Garbage Studies

  • In 1988, the city of Phoenix commissioned a study from Dr. Bill Rathje of the University of Arizona to perform a detailed analysis of the solid waste generated by Phoenix residents. One of the most important conclusions the study determined was that over 50 percent by weight and over 63 percent by volume of typical residential garbage was recyclable. This information was the base upon which the recycling program was designed. The goal is to divert as much garbage as possible from the solid waste stream headed to Phoenix landfills.
  • In 2003, the city of Phoenix commissioned Cascadia Consulting Group, Inc. to conduct a follow-up 2003 Waste Characterization Study to see how the composition of the solid waste stream had changed in Phoenix over the previous 15 years. This information gave insight into what other materials could be diverted from solid waste headed to landfills. An interesting conclusion of this study was the large percentage of paper, especially newspaper, that was still found in garbage containers and not recycling barrels.
  • A decade later, in the summer of 2014, one of two waste characterization studies was conducted to measure any changes in the city's solid waste stream. Here are the results of the Summer 2014 Waste Characterization Study. Green organics waste plays a big role this time.
  • Other reports:

How much do we throw away?

More than one million tons of solid waste is taken to the city�s SR85 Landfill each year.  Approximately half is from residences and the other half from commercial entities like schools, apartments, factories, stores and offices.  This total tonnage does not reflect material taken to privately owned landfills or by other cities in the metro Phoenix area.  This total amount and volume of material could fill Chase Field top to bottom at least seven times each year.  It also is equal to about one ton of garbage per resident per year (or 28 full garbage curbside containers per year).  The recycling program has had the effect of extending the capacity of city landfills by diverting almost 120,000 tons of recyclables each year.  These materials have a great number of high volume/low weight items including plastic bottles, cardboard boxes and aluminum cans.